Editor’s note: According to the BC Shellfish Growers Association: “the most prolific areas for shellfish farming have been Baynes Sound, Cortes Island and Okeover Inlet.” The Shellfish industry is one of Cortes Island’s largest employers. Twenty-two people were working at Island Seafarms when the COVID crises began and a skeleton crew is preparing for next year. There are also a number of independent contractors in the Bee Islet Growers Corporation, in Gorge Harbour, and other lease holders around the island.
A Vancouver Island researcher is developing an early warning system to prevent the contamination of farmed oysters along B.C.’s west coast, which can cost the industry millions.
There are good reasons that boaters are not allowed to dump chemicals, sewage and other debris in Carrington Bay, Cortes Bay, Gorge Harbour, Squirrel Cove, or Manson’s Landing. “[Cortes Island] has the best oysters in the area, [possibly] because it is supposed to have such pristine clean water,” says Julia Rendall, President of the 13 member Bee Islets Growers Corporation. She explained that violations “could close us down and if we are closed down I think we have to have three tests, three weeks in a row, clear. So it could, in theory, close you down for about a month.” Cortes Island’s unique environmental features resulted in the creation of several marine parks. Contamination is a concern for all islanders, whether they are shellfish harvesters or not. These areas are currently designated as “No Discharge Zones” under federal regulations. Never-the-less, violations periodically do occur and a recent incident illustrates the difficulties of trying to stop recreational boaters from polluting Cortes Islands protected areas.
For the past eight years Gorge harbour residents, on Cortes Island, have been cleaning up the aquaculture debris, left by industry, at their own expense. This was sometimes a source of tension between property owners and industry. Barry and Amanda Glickman, who organized these annual clean-ups, said the first year they hauled away three truck loads of debris. The most recent clean-up was last May. Now the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is stepping in and, in partnership with industry, will be holding Turn it in Week between September 11-15, 2017.